NEW YORK – A jury can hear incriminating statements made by a terror defendant after he was arrested in a failed mission by al-Qaida to attack the city's subway system with homemade bombs, a federal judge ruled Thursday.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie rejected a defense motion to have Adis Medunjanin's statements kept out of a trial expected to begin early next year.
Defense attorney Robert Gottlieb, who had argued the statements had been coerced, said he was "disappointed, but we are preparing for trial."
Medunjanin has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of hatching a plot with two former high school classmates from Queens, Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, to pull off what prosecutors call three "coordinated suicide bombing attacks" on Manhattan subway lines.
After receiving al-Qaida training, Zazi, a former Denver airport shuttle driver, cooked up explosives and set out for New York City around the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He was arrested after abandoning the plan and fleeing back to Colorado.
Zazi and Ahmedzay have since admitted in guilty pleas that they wanted to avenge U.S. aggression in the Arab world by becoming martyrs. Both are potential government witnesses against Medunjanin.
The FBI — in reports filed to support arguments Medunjanin's statements should be allowed at trial — claimed that after he was detained in early 2010, he admitted going to Afghanistan with his friends in 2008 to join the Taliban and fight U.S. soldiers in retaliation for the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal. The three instead were recruited by al-Qaida operatives, who gave them weapons training in their Pakistan camp and asked them to become suicide bombers, the reports say.
Medunjanin told his al-Qaida handlers "he had prayed but still wasn't sure if he was ready to be a martyr," the reports say. He later was sent home on his own, the reports add, after he told them "the best thing for him to do ... was to return to the U.S. and provide financial support" for the terror network.
In a sworn statement provided by the defense, Medunjanin had accused agents of making veiled threats against his family and denying him access to his attorney for 36 hours.